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Lightfoot's impact felt in his hometown of Orillia, Ont. as fans mourn and celebrate his life

Fans of Gordon Lightfoot are mourning his death and revelling in his life in his hometown of Orillia, Ont., after news of his passing broke Monday evening.

Many stopped by Alleycats Music and Art record store on Mississaga Street to bask in the memories.

"When a musician passes away that people love, they want to talk about it," said Alleycats owner Mike Rothwell.

Across the street, local business owner Bill Cook turned an empty storefront into a tribute to Lightfoot.

"I just felt that we need to do a little setup on the street to have people stop and think about him," Cook said.

The storefront is adorned with memorabilia, and visitors have been leaving notes and flowers to grieve and celebrate the most beloved musician to ever come out of the Sunshine City.

Memorabilia of Gordon Lightfoot adorns an empty storefront in Orillia, Ont., on Wed., May 3, 2023. (CTV News/Ian Duffy)

"They almost have tears in their eyes, but they're also smiling because they're so happy to see various pictures of Gordon, and they all have good memories of him," Cook added.

The iconic folk musician made appearances at the Mariposa Folk Festival over the years, often performing without having been hired, to the delight of his fans.

Lightfoot headlined the festival several times, singing his famous songs, including "If You Could Read My Mind," "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and "Sundown."

Gordon Lightfoot performs during the first concert at the newly re-opened Massey Hall in Toronto on November 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Alleycats record store, where Rothwell displayed only Lightfoot records on his 80th birthday, said his customers helped him realize how adored Lightfoot was to people of all ages.

"Sometimes it surprises me that people in their 30s and 20s would know about Gordon Lightfoot," Rothwell said. "So that helped me understand how important he was."

More than 500 people signed the Opera House's books of condolences.

"His name is synonymous with Orillia," said Cook. "I've been many places in the world, from Japan to Australia, and if I tell people I'm from Orillia, even the locals, they will say, 'Oh, that's where Gordon Lightfoot is from'."

Lightfoot will be laid to rest in his hometown of Orillia at St. Paul's United Church.

The public is invited to pay their respects on Sunday at the church on Peter Street North from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Top Stories

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